Capitol Report from Senator Craig Wilcox

Senators Wilcox and Rezin demand further investigation into LaSalle Veterans’ Home deaths
The role of government is to take care of those who require assistance or who cannot take care of themselves. This responsibility is especially important for our aging veterans, who answered a call to serve, and who are now living out their twilight years in one of our state-run Veterans’ Homes.

Earlier today I joined Senator Sue Rezin, State Representative David Welter, and several veterans’ groups at a press conference outside of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home. Together, we demanded a deeper investigation into mismanagement during the COVID-19 crisis that cost 36 veterans their lives, and caused over 100 other veterans and staff members to become infected with the virus.

Click here to listen to my remarks.

The top-to-bottom incompetence shown in the management of this crisis is an outrage. The Pritzker administration, his appointees, and those managing the day-to-day operations at this facility had a responsibility to protect the veterans who live in the LaSalle facility. Instead, their carelessness resulted in the deadliest outbreak at a state-run facility in Illinois history.

At the press conference, we also renewed a call for passage of important legislation that addresses the complete breakdown of mandated COVID-19 protocols, including:

  • Senate Bill 2251: requires IDPH to engage in an onsite visit within one business day of an infectious outbreak at a veterans’ home (filed Feb. 26, never granted a hearing)
  • Senate Bill 1471: requires state-run facilities to conduct outbreak preparedness drills (amended to include this language on April 8, never granted a hearing)
  • Senate Bill 1445: requires past employees to cooperate in investigations done by the Inspector General, which is necessary because the Director of the IL Department of Veterans Affairs at the time of the LaSalle COVID-19 outbreak refused to cooperate with the OIG investigation (amended to include this language on May 7, the bill still sits in the Senate Assignments Committee with no hearing scheduled).

Every veteran living in a state-run veterans’ home is a hero, and every one of them deserves the very best care we can offer. Every one of them deserves to know they are safe and protected, so they can live comfortably and honorably. Unfortunately, the State of Illinois failed them and failed their families.

Wilcox joins colleagues to target growing local pension crisis
In the wake of a growing pension crisis, I joined several Republican lawmakers and the president of Wirepoints for a press conference on May 5 to address the worsening local pension debt in Illinois.

Wirepoints, an independent, public finance watchdog, reviewed 175 of the largest cities across Illinois based on ten equally-weighted metrics, comparing finances of municipalities between 2003 and 2019. Metrics used included the funding ratio of each local pension system, pension debt of households, and costs of pensions from city budgets. Of the 175 municipalities reviewed, 102 municipal pension funds received a failing grade. In the press conference, lawmakers noted that taxpayers cannot withstand the ever-growing burden being placed on their shoulders and those with pensions continue to fear for the security of their retirement.

According to Wirepoints, key findings from the report included:

  • Workers’ retirement security has declined in an alarming number of Illinois cities.
  • City taxpayers have increasingly paid more to pensions over the past 16 years, and yet the pension shortfalls they are on the hook for are far larger today.
  • Pension costs as a share of city budgets have doubled.
  • Most local pension funds have more retirees drawing benefits than active workers contributing.

Locally, in Crystal Lake, taxpayers today contribute more than three times the amount of taxes toward local pensions than they did in 2003, while Crystal Lake pension obligation quadrupled during that time. In Woodstock, the local pension obligation doubled over the last ten years.

Quite simply, we are asking our local leaders to make a difficult choice. We’re asking them to either raise taxes on already-overburdened taxpayers, or reduce services- like police and fire- within their communities. Click here to read the full summary of the report, and click here to watch my press conference remarks.

Senator Craig Wilcox to host appreciation card drive for local police officers
National Police Week is May 9-15, and there’s still time to participate in my Appreciation for your Dedication Card Drive. I am seeking assistance from residents throughout the 32nd Senate District to send a hearty thank you to law enforcement for their work in keeping our communities safe. These dedicated public servants put their lives on the line daily without hesitation, and are deserving of our deepest gratitude.

To show our thanks, I’m asking residents to submit cards, stories, drawings, etc. by Thursday, May 13 to my McHenry office (5400 W. Elm Street, Suite # 103, McHenry, 60050). My staff and I will personally deliver the notes/drawings to police officers throughout the 32nd District.

In addition to participating in the card drive, I am also encouraging residents to display blue outdoor house lights during the week of May 9-15, and to extend a verbal thank you as they encounter police officers during the course of their day.

Mark your calendars for upcoming “Sips with your Senator” events
My summer events calendar is coming together, and constituents throughout the 32nd District will have many opportunities to attend large outreach events and meet with me personally at smaller events. My summer outreach efforts begin in June, with events on June 17 and 18. Please stop by one or both of these events, and visit my website senatorwilcox.com to learn about more events like these and other larger events that will be happening throughout the communities in the 32nd District this summer and fall.

Election reform legislation seeks to bring standardization and transparency
Senate Republicans are teaming up with county clerks on major election reform legislation. The Election Standardization Act, contained in Senate Bill 1326, came from an Election Reform Working Group. A panel of local and state election officials developed a series of reforms to improve the election process through increased transparency and uniformity within the state’s current election system.

The Election Standardization Act does the following:

  • Standardizes election judge training by requiring election authorities to use specific guidelines provided by the State Board of Elections.
  • Requires election authorities to post on their websites the reason for any reporting delay that is five hours past close of polls.
  • Requires the State Board of Elections to audit the post-election vote-by-mail processing requirements and procedures of five percent of the state’s election authorities.
  • Requires election authorities to post on their websites the procedures for processing vote by mail ballots.

Proponents of the legislation say these reforms will help to ensure voters have better access to information regarding the election process, as well as provide them with consistency every time they vote.

Redistricting hearings continue to raise concerns about accountability and fairness
Gov. Pritzker was called out during the week by both Illinois and national publications for his recent statements on the idea of “fair maps.” On May 2, Champaign News Gazette columnist Jim Dey likened the Governor’s promise not to support a partisan map as “doubling-dealing.” Dey wrote: “Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week made it clear that his previous pledge to oversee a fair legislative map-drawing process and veto an unfair map is now inoperative. It is, in fact, so inoperative that he’s now pretending he never made the promise in the first place.”

Meanwhile, a recent Wall Street Journal editorial noted how Gov. Pritzker walked back his “pledge to veto” a partisan, gerrymandered map. The Editorial Board wrote about the Governor: “He insisted on ‘an independent commission to handle creating a new legislative map… But as the partisan pens meet paper, Gov. Pritzker now says he’ll be satisfied with a map drawn by his legislative allies.”’

The editorial also noted Illinois Republicans have proposed to create a balanced, bipartisan redistricting commission to draw new maps to ensure fair maps.

Redistricting, as Illinois conducts it, is a highly partisan process, and that was very evident during a May 1 hearing. Republicans on the committee asked several times about which source of data was being used to allow Illinoisans to draw proposed legislative maps on a website established and run by the Senate Democrat Caucus.

After being repeatedly told the source of data was not known, a citizen witness subsequently asked the same question, and received a direct answer that statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS) were being used for the map-making. ACS data is considered a mere “snapshot” of the kind of detailed demographics needed to draw accurate and fair maps.

Since the redistricting hearings began, Senate Republicans have insisted on waiting to draw new legislative and congressional boundaries until the full and complete U.S. Census Bureau data on the 2020 Census are available. That report is expected to be released late this summer.

Have Your Voice Heard: Submit witness slips
Have you ever wondered how you can get more involved in the legislative process? One of the easiest ways to do so is filing a witness slip. Witness slips are filed on bills that are being heard in committee and you can file a slip either in opposition of a bill or as a proponent of a bill. Best of all, ANYONE can file a slip and have their opinions logged into the official record. Watch our tutorial below to learn how so you can have your voice heard! Click here to view a quick and easy-to-follow video outlining how to submit a witness slip. There are some good bills out there worthy of your support, and unfortunately a lot of really terrible bills out there that could use your opposition.

COVID financial help for Illinois restaurants
The Illinois Restaurant Association is encouraging restaurants still suffering from the economic fallout of COVID-19 to begin applying for Revitalization Fund grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The program launched May 3. According to the Association, the fund will prioritize applications from women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, during the first 21 days. For more information, including links to apply for the grants, visit the Illinois Restaurant Association website at www.IllinoisRestaurants.org.

Illinois economy in need of pro-jobs/pro-business leadership
Once again, CEO Magazine ranks Illinois as one of the worst states in its annual “Best States for Business” report. Only New York and California rank lower. Chief executive officers were asked to grade states in which they do business on business climate – including taxes and regulations – workforce and quality of life.

Senate Republicans believe Illinois has a lot to offer, but recognize governmental burdens make business expansion and job creation more difficult. Lowering taxes and minimizing regulations would help lift up Illinois’ economy, which continues a years-long struggle.

I believe Illinois has all the ingredients it needs for economic success. The transportation system of interstates, rail and airports are among the busiest corridors in the country. The education system – including top-flight colleges and universities – are incubators for cutting-edge innovation, and Illinoisans have always displayed a strong work ethic. However, the level of taxation imposed by the state and local governments, and business regulations such as Workers’ Compensation rates, are among the most burdensome in the country.

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